COVENANTED GRACE FOR COVENANTING WORK.
This Sermon was preached at Stirling, December 28, 1743, in the evening of that day, on which Associate Presbytery did with uplifted hands, solemnly renew the National Covenants.
“Thou hast avouched the Lord this day to be thy God, and to walk in his ways, and to keep his statutes, and his commandments, and his judgments, and to hearken unto his voice: And the Lord hath avouched thee this day to be his peculiar people, as he hath promised thee, and that thou shouldest keep all his commandments;” Deuteronomy 26:17-18
The solemnity of this very day hath been great and remarkable, and somewhat exactly parallel to it you have in these words. From the preceding verse, God by his servant Moses, binds, all duties of obedience to his commands, upon this people of Israel, by a threefold argument. The, first is drawn from the authority of God, (v. 19). They were not the commands of Moses, but of God: infinite wisdom framed them, and the power of the King of kings made them binding to them; “This day the Lord they God hath commanded thee to do these statutes,” &c. The second argument is drawn from his being their covenanted God, “Thou hast avouched the Lord this day, to be thy God,” (v. 17), &c. A third argument is drawn from their being his covenanted people, “And the Lord hath avouched thee this day to be his peculiar people,” (v. 19) &c. Here he covenants to make them his peculiar people, his obedient people, that they should keep all his commandments; and farther, (v.19), to make them a high people, and to make them high above all nations which he had made, in praise, and in name, and in honor: and make them a holy people; “That thou mayest be a holy people unto the Lord thy God, as he hath spoken.” But I confine myself especially to the verses first read.
I know the way wherein some go to work, in commenting upon this, and such like texts, as if there were but one mutual covenant between God and them here spoken of; whereof their part was a promise and oath of obedience; and God’s part, a promise, that upon that condition he would do so and so for them; and thus turning it to a covenant of works, with stipulation and re-stipulation. But “We have not so learned Christ,” nor the truth as it is in him, as to conceive it in this manner; it was a gross view of it, this way, that made the most part of that Israel of God, so soon to break all their engagements; they made a covenant of duty with God, without taking hold on God’s covenant of grace, exhibit to them; and hence they so perfidiously brake their covenant: and therefore, when God returned to them, he put them in mind of his covenant which they had forgotten, and put a difference between that covenant of theirs and his covenant; “Nevertheless, I will remember my covenant in the days of thy youth, and thou shalt remember thy ways and be ashamed;” and I will do so and so for thee, but not by thy covenant, (Ezek. 16:60-61). Whatever peculiar privileges, and temporal blessings, were promised to Israel of old, yet they being all typical of spiritual blessings, and the heavenly Canaan; and however dark this legal Old Testament dispensation was, yet it was a covenant of grace they were under and hence they were under a special obligation to serve and obey him in a covenant of duty.
In the works, then, you have more generally, the three things.
1st, Their covenant of duty and service to God, wherein they avouch him to be their God, and engage to walk in his ways,
2d1y, The foundation and ground of this their covenant of duty, and the grand encouragement thy had t enter into it, namely, God’s covenant of grace and promise, wherein he avouches them to be his; and promises to make them a holy and happy people: and happy would they all have been forever, if they all had taken hold of this covenant of promise. But though a promise was left to them, yet many of them entered not into the earthly Canaan, nor to the heavenly either, because of their unbelief, (Heb. 3:19). They were not all Israel that were of Israel. They were all avouched to be God’s people in an external federal way, as they were a visible church in general; but there was only a small remnant that were his people, in a special, internal, spiritual and distinguished sense, as being true believers, who laid hold on his covenant of grace, in order to their being capable to stand to their covenant of duty, and so show themselves to be his dutiful and peculiar people: however, the outward dispensation of the covenant of promise respected them all equally, that they might build their engagement to duty, upon this foundation of God’s covenant of grace, wherein alone their furniture for all duty was provided.
3dly, You have in the words the solemnity of this twofold transaction, relating to their covenant of duty, and God’s covenant of grace, as the ground and encouragement of it: and the solemnity appears.
1. In the manner wherein they assert their covenant of duty and God asserts his covenant of grace; it is by a solemn avouching: they openly own, acknowledge, and confess him to be their God; and he openly owns, acknowledges, and confesses them to be his people.
2. There is a solemnity in the particularity of this twofold transaction: they are led to deal with God by their covenant, and God with them by his covenant, in such a particular way, that they act in a body as one man, acting and transacting with that One only, the living and true God; but with him as a promising God in Christ, covenanting with Christ, leading them to take hold of that covenant, every one in particular for himself, that they may be capable to devote themselves to him, and serve him. Hence the words are “Thou hast avouched the Lord to be thy God, and the Lord hath avouched thee to be his people.”
3. There is a solemnity in the universality of the matter engaged unto in this twofold engagement; they engage to walk in his ways, and to keep his statutes, and his commandments, and his judgments, and to hearken to his voice: and, in order hereunto, God in his covenant engages, by his promise, to make them his, to make them holy, to make them happy, to do all their work in them and for them.
4. There is a solemnity in the date of this double engagement, this day; intimating thata remark is to be put upon the time wherein such a solemn thing is transacted; therefore, in the preceding verse, together with this text, this day is threetimes mentioned: “THIS DAY the Lord thy God hath commanded thee; THIS DAY thou hast avouched the Lord to be thy God; and THIS DAY the Lord hath avouched thee to be his people.”
Moses took instruments upon it;, and dates his instruments, that this day it was done; so we, in the afternoon of this day, before all that were witnesses to this work, in the former part of the day, do hereupon take instruments, that this day we have avouched the Lord to be our God, and to walk in his ways; and this day the Lord, by his presence, we hope, and countenance in the work, hath avouched us to be his servants, and of the number of his peculiar people, by engaging, in his covenant of grace and promise, to be our God, and to help us to keep all his judgments, and to do them with all our hearts, and with all our souls. This is the alone ground and foundation upon which we have come under any such engagement to him.
The date of the time this day, applied here, both to his engagement, inthe covenant of grace, and our engagement in the covenant of duty, points out the necessary connection between these two; or the absolute necessity of his engaging for us, in order to our engaging to him; and though his engagement is last mentioned in the text, yet it is the first intended; for, though it is ordinary in scripture, that the duty is sometimes first named, and then the mens and motives afterwards; yet, surely in the order of nature, the means and motives to the duty are first considered, awl then the duty practiced accordingly. Hence, “Let the wicked forsake his ways, and the unrighteous man his thoughts, and return to the Lord, for he will abundantly pardon,” (Isa. 55:7). Here the motive is last mentioned, but yet it is the firstthing intended and viewed by the returning sinner, in order to excite him to a compliance with the exhortation, and induce him to return. Thus, “Return to me, for I haveredeemed thee,” (Isa. 44:22), the motive and argument comes last, “I have redeemed thee,” yet it is first in view; for redeeming love believed, influences the gospel return: “Return to me, for I have redeemed thee.”
Thus the ground and foundation of our solemn engagement is God’s engaging first in a covenant of grace to us through Christ; and though this be last here mentioned, it is the first in order of nature and time both, as being the spring and fountain of the former; and if we who are ministers, have been honestly avouching the Lord this day to be our God, and to serve him, it is an evidence that he hath been beforehand with us, avouching usto be his servants, and engaging by promise for us; and, therefore, in accommodation of this subject to the present circumstance, the doctrine I observe from the text, is the following:—
Doctrine: That God’s solemn engagement in Christ unto us, by a covenant of grace and promise, lays us under the strongest obligation, both to come under, and to be faithful to our solemn engagements unto him, in a covenant of gratitude and duty.
By our solemn engagements, I understand our avouching the Lord to be our God, and that we will walk in his ways, &c. By God’s solemn engagements, I understand his avouching us to be of his peculiar people; and promising to enable us to keep all his commandments, and to make us holy and happy; and because, by these arguments drawn from God’s being Israel’s covenanted God, and hence their being his covenanted people, Moses binds all the duties of obedience to God’s commands upon them; therefore, I say, that this is a strong argument and encouragement to be firm and faithful to our engagements.
I hope I need not stand upon the confirmation of the truth of it; the Preface to the Ten Commandments teacheth us this doctrine “That because God is the Lord, and our God, and Redeemer, therefore we are bound to keep all his commandments” We are bound to avouch him, to know and acknowledge him to be the Lord, and our God, and Redeemer; we are bound to serve and obey him, which is much the same with this doctrine I am upon.
In speaking to it, through divine assistance, following the order of the text, I would essay these things:—
I. Touch a little at the engagement of a covenanted people here, their avouching God.
II. At the engagement of a covenanted God, his avouching them.
III. Touch at the solemnity of these engagements, both of his and theirs
IV. Prove the doctrine by scripture and reason, That God’s solemn engagement in Christ unto us, by a covenant of grace and promise, brings us under the strongest obligation, both to come under, and be faithful unto our solemn engagements to him, in a covenant of gratitude and duty.
V. To make some application of the whole subject.
I. We are to speak of the engagement of a covenanted people; they are expressed in the first verse of the text, “Thou hast avouched the Lord this day to be thy God.” Where we may observe,
1st, The nature of this engagement; it is an avouching, that is, a solemn confessing and acknowledging the name of God, according to that word, (Ps. 147:12).
The Lord praise, O Jerusalem;
Zion, thy God confess.
And it is confessing him with the mouth, flowing from a believing in him with the heart, “For with the heart men believe unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation,” (Rom. 10:10).
2dly, Observe the matter of this engagement, which consists of two general points.
[1.] A solemn profession of faith, or of laying hold upon God’s covenant of grace; that is, an avouching the Lord to be thy God. The foundation of this claim we have to him as our God; is not only the command of God, saying, “Thou shalt have no other God before me,” and thereby requiring us to “know and acknowledge him to be the Lord our God and Redeemer,” but also his promise, saying in his covenant, “I will be thy God,” and a declaration of his name, saying, “I am the Lord thy God.” This is his name, and when we take hold of this name, we not only acknowledge his sovereignty over us, as THE Lord, but also his propriety in us, as OUR God; otherwise we tear asunder, and rend to pieces his name, which is the Lord thy God; by which he declares upon the matter, As sure as I am the Lord, so sure am I thy God. Here is the great name of this covenanting God in Christ, We have no other warrant, but one and the same, to acknowledge his sovereignty over us, as the Lord; and to acknowledge his relation to us as our God. And shall we confess the one part of his name, and not the other? Or rather, shall we acknowledge the most awful, and reject the most amiable part of it? Woe would be to us forever, if he be the Lord, and not our God! But our everlasting welfare lies in this, that he is the Lord our God; his name is, “I am that I am,” and when he explains this name to us, he says, “I am the Lord thy God.” O solid everlasting foundation, for the assurance of faith! As sure as I AM, so, sure “I am the Lord thy God.”
Now, here is the chief and leading matter of our engagement, our taking hold of God’s covenant of grace, or of God as our covenanted God in Christ, and avouching him to be our God; and so to be our righteousness and our strength; our righteousness, that we may stand justified in him, as Jehovah, our righteousness; and our strength, that we may be sanctified in him, and have ability and furniture for our work and warfare from him. And so our avouching the Lord to be our God is also a saying, “We will go in the strength of the Lord, making mention of his righteousness, and his only,” (Ps. 71:16). Hence,
[2.] The next general, in the matter of the engagement, is a solemn profession of obedience, or a resolution, in the name and strength, of this our God, “To walk in his ways, to keep his statutes,
and his commandments, and his judgments, and to hearken to his voice.” Here is a five-fold expression of what may be supposed to be one and the same thing, but yet under distinct considerations; and so,
1. To walk in his ways, or an engagement to do so, may import, a regard to his laws, as they are the beaten path, wherein he wills all his people continually to go on by a progressive motion;
and the ways wherein alone they can expect to meet with him, would enjoy his company and fellowship.
2. An engagement to keep his statutes, may import a regard to his laws, as they are statute and ordained in the court of heaven. To be a standing and established rule of faith and practice unto us.
3. An engagement to keep his commandments may import a regard to the same laws of God, as they have a stamp of divine authority on them; we engage to regard them, as they have engraven upon them the authority of a commanding God.
4. An engagement to keep his judgments may import a regard to the same laws, as they are the result of infinite wisdom, or as they have engraven upon them the image of God, as a God of judgment, or whose understanding is infinite. And whereas these are all spoke of in the plural number, namely, ways, statutes, commandments and judgments it imports an engagement and resolution to observe all things whatsoever he hath commanded, (Matt 28:28), without reckoning anything too little or small, that hath his authority stamped upon it, for “Whosoever shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, shall he called least in the kingdom of heaven,” (Matt. 5:19). It imports, then, a regard to whatsoever truth God hath revealed, or duty he hath enjoined, in his holy word, which principally teaches us “what we are to believe concerning God, and what duty God requires of us.”
5. An encouragement to hearken to his voice, as in the text, may import, a regard to the same statutes, commandments, and judgments, as they are the voice of God from heaven to us upon earth, which is called, “The more sure word of prophecy, whereunto we do well to take heed, as unto the shining light in a dark place,” (2 Pet. 1:19). A more sure word than any other voice from heaven; yea, more sure than that voice that came from the excellent glory, saying, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased,” (Matt. 3:17). To hearken to his voice may also import a due regard to the voice of God, as in his word, so in his providence, explained by, and in an agreeableness to his word, the “only direct rule to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy him.” Hence we are to hear and regard the voice of God in all his dispensations; in his mercies,with thankfulness; and in his judgments, with reverence. We are called to hearken to him both in his word and rod: “The Lord’s voice crieth unto the city, and the man of wisdom shall see thy name; hear ye the rod, and who hath appointed it,” (Micah 6:9).
In a word, these expressions import a resolution to cleave to all the ordinances he hath established among them; for, “He gave his word unto Jacob, his statutes and his judgments unto Israel; he dealt not so with any nation,” (Ps. 147:19-20).
Thus it includes a solemn engagement to adhere to all the degrees of reformation once attained to; and so of the same kind with that which we this day have been called unto.
II. The second thing proposed is, To touch a little at the engagement of our covenanting God in Christ, by a covenant of grace, which is the ground and foundation of this foresaid covenant of duty. This is expressed in the second verse of the text; and, “The Lord hath avouched thee this day to be his peculiar people, as he hath promised thee,” &c. Here let me observe also the nature and matter of this engagement.
1st, The nature of it: it is his avouching; and that is his solemn confessing and acknowledging us to be his peculiar people; which we are to conceive of in a way agreeable to the glorious majesty of God we have to do with, who, since our fall in Adam, the first covenant-head, cannot transact with us immediately, but in a new covenant-head, viz. the Lord Jesus Christ, who was given to be the covenant of the people, and in whom the covenant of grace stands fast. God could not promise to be our God, or to make us his people, but upon honorable terms; terms consistent with his infinite dignity; terms vindicating the honor of God’s holiness, declared in the precepts of the law that we broke, and satisfying the justice of God, declared in the threatening of the law that we incurred; and because God, in a consistency with his declared purpose, could not engage to be anything to us, but a consuming fire to destroy us, except upon these honorable terms; therefore he sent his eternal Son, according to the eternal concert between the Father and him, to assume our nature, and come into our law-room, to be the Lord our righteousness; and his engagement to do and suffer in our room, is previous, not only to any engagement of ours, in a covenant of duty and gratitude, but previous to God’s engagement to be a God to us, or to make us his people; and Christ having both come under and fulfilling his engagements, with his whole heart and soul, saying, “Lo, I come; I delight to do thy will, O my God,” &c. See how the great God notified this to the world, sometimes with a Behold: “Behold my Servant, whom I uphold,” (Isa. 11:1); sometimes with a “Who is this?” “Who is this that engaged his heart to approach unto me, saith the Lord,” (Jer. 30:21). And, as the product of this engagement of Christ in our room, God not only came under a new engagement to Christ, and a new relation to him, to be his God and Father, upon this new-covenant footing, (Ps. 89:26), but also under a new engagement and relation to us in him, as our God and Father in him, (John 20:17); and therefore it immediately follows, in the forecited, “You shall be my people, and I will be your God,” (Jer. 30:22). And hence,
2dly, The matter of this engagement, in and through Christ Jesus, is,
1. To make us his people, or to avouch, confess, and acknowledge us as his peculiar people, as he hath promised us in Christ Jesus, “In whom all the promises of God are Yea and Amen, to the glory of God,” and the promise, ““You shall be my people,” necessarily imports the other, “I will be your God;” for, our relation to him, as his people, presupposes his relation to us as our God in Christ. God appropriating us to himself, and we appropriating God to ourselves, he publicly owns us to be his, and we publicly own him to be ours. His acknowledgment of us to be his peculiar people, imports, that as we are not our own, but his, so we are honored with peculiar privileges; to be the people of his peculiar choice; being set apart for himself; the people of his peculiar delight: his delight is with the sons of men; the people of his peculiar desire: “He shall greatly desire thy beauty;” the people of his peculiar pleasure: “For the Lord takes pleasure in his people;” they are the people of his peculiar pasture; he feeds them among the lilies. In a word, to be his friends, his favorites, his jewels, his crown, his glory: “I will place salvation in Zion for Israel my glory.”
2. The matter of his engagement in Christ unto us, in a covenant of promise, is to make us a holy people. This is both the end and design of his covenant of grace and promise; and it is the end and design of his bringing us under a covenant of duty and gratitude, that we should keep all his commandments. This is expressly promised in his covenant of grace: “I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them,” (Ezek. 36:27). And though we are bound no farther to do, than he hath bound himself by promise to enable, (whence we go forth depending only upon the grace and strength of our promising God) yet, for exciting us to our duty, and strengthening our hands therein, God hath called us to vow, and pay our vows to him; and so there is, upon the matter, a superadded obligation lying upon us, by our covenant of gratitude and duty; which, though it binds us to nothing but what we were materially, antecedently, or authoritatively bound to before, by the word of God, yet, corroboratively, it strengthens the obligation with the solemnity of an oath; upon which instruments are taken, such a day and date, “Thou hast avouched the Lord this day, and the Lord hath avouched thee this day.” Hence,
III. The third thing I proposed to touch a little at, was, The solemnity of these engagements: both of ours in a covenant of gratitude, and of his, in a covenant of grace.
1. The solemnity of the people’s engagement. Here I shall only observe, as in the explication, there is a solemnity in the way and manner of their covenanting; it is in a way of open avowing and avouching the Lord to be their God. There is a solemnity in the particularity of their appropriating God to themselves: “Thou hast avouched the Lord to be thy God—thy God.” There is a solemnity in the universality of the engagement: it relates to all things imported in keeping his statutes, commandments, judgments, and hearkening to his voice, as already explained. And there is a solemnity in the day and date of the instruments taken upon the whole: “This day thou hast avouched the Lord to be thy God, and to serve him.”
2. The solemnity of God’s engagement here, in a covenant of grace, is equally great. There is a solemnity in the way and manner of his engagement; it is in a way of open avowing and avouching his relation to, and propriety in them. There is a solemnity in the particularity of the choice he openly makes of them, as his peculiar people. There is a solemnity in the universality of the promise in Christ Jesus unto them, as it respects all things that he calls them to engage unto, namely, the keeping of all his commandments. In Christ, our justifying head, they are all kept already as a covenant, and kept perfectly; he hath finished the work the Father gave him to do; but in him, as our sanctifying head, we are called to keep them gratefully and obediently; not as a rule of justification and acceptance (for, “We are accepted only in the Beloved,”) but as a rule of sanctification and obedience; and, for this end, he hath promised his grace to be sufficient for us; his strength to be made perfect in our weakness; and his promise in the gospel extends to all things commanded in the law as our duty. And lastly, there is a solemnity in the day and date of God’s engagement to and for them, upon which also instruments are taken by Moses, the typical Mediator between God and Israel; even so by Jesus Christ, our true Mediator between God and us, may I say, instruments are taken, that God’s covenant of grace, for our behoof [benefit/advantage], is dated the same day, the same time with our covenant of gratitude with him; and it is well for as that these go hand in hand together, which leads me,
IV. To the fourth thing proposed, which is to show, “That God’s solemn engagement in Christ unto us, in his covenant of grace, lays us under the strongest obligation, both to come under and to be faithful to our solemn engagements to him in our covenant of duty.” For clearing and evincing this let it be considered,
[1.] We are by nature without God in the world, and highly guilty before God, through the breach and violation of the covenant of works; and, having broken our credit, God cannot trust us, not enter immediately into any covenant again with us, nor suffer us to enter immediately into any covenant with him, but only in and through a Surety: therefore, the covenant is not made with us immediately, but with Christ: “I have made a covenant with my Chosen,” (Ps. 89:3). We were never proper parties in that covenant, nor could ever subscribe to it as parties; but only as consenters in a day of power. Therefore, God’s covenant of grace is a thing quite distinct from, and yet the ground and foundation of our covenant of gratitude and duty towards him, that hath provided such a well furnished new covenant head for us.
[2.] Consider, we are by nature without strength, having lost our God, we have lost our strength and ability to do any service acceptable to God; therefore, in vain would we promise and swear to serve him in a covenant of duty, if he had not first given his word and oath in a covenant of grace, that he would be our God and our strength, who gives power to the faint, and to him that hath no might he increaseth strength.
[3.] Consider, that God exhibiting himself to us in a covenant of grace and promise, lays us under a manifold obligation both to come under and to be faithful to our solemn engagements, in a covenant of gratitude and duty towards him.
1. Gratitude itself obliges us to promise ourselves to him that hath promised himself to us; solemnly to avouch ourselves to be his who solemnly avouches himself to be ours. How should he regard our fits and starts at his service, if we would not resolve, through his grace, to be his fixed, settled, and engaged servants? As in gratitude, so,
2. In point of ingenuity; we can do no less, since he hath the beat right to us; if he hath loved us, and given himself for us, we ought to love him, and give ourselves to him. Also,
3. In point of equity; it is requisite, seeing he hath such a right to us, and showssuch mercy on us, that we come under engagements to him again. “I beseech you, brethren, by the mercies ofGod, that you present your bodies .a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable unto God, which is our reasonable service,” (Rom. 12:1). It is said of our Lord Jesus Christ, that Joseph and Mary, “when the days of her purification) according to the law of Moses were accomplished, they brought him to Jerusalem, to present him to the Lord,” (Luke 2:22). Was our IMMANUEL presented to God in our room! And is it not equal that we, through his grace, present ourselves to him? Again,
4. In point of evidence, for showing that we are interested in the covenant of grace; and for showing the sincerity of our faith in it, and love to the Mediator of it, and concern for his glory, we are obliged to give ourselves to him in a covenant of gratitude; for, “Grace be with all them that love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity,” (Eph. 6:24). Further,
5. In point of honor done to God, and for glorifying him on earth, and before the world, we are obliged openly to avouch him that avouches us; “Zion, thy God confess.” And as we ought to glorify God by making, so by keeping covenant with him; but still we are to beware of confounding his covenant of grace with our covenant of duty, by thinking the former is broken when the latter is broken. Finally,
6. In point of interest; the covenant of grace promises unspeakable advantage to them that are faithful engagers in a covenant of gratitude, and in a way of taking hold of his covenant; for to such there is a promise, “Them will I bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer; their burnt-offerings and sacrifices shall be accepted upon mine altar,” (Isa. 56:7). There is nothing more pleasant and acceptable unto God; for, “Who is this that engaged his heart to approach unto me, saith the Lord?” It is spoken of Christ, the great and first engager, whose solemn engagement in a covenant of grace God declares his acceptance of, with a Who is this?But then it takes in all the faithful engagers, who come in at his back, and declares their faith and love by a covenant of gratitude and duty. But then,
[4.] Consider, that everything in and about a covenant of grace binds and obliges us to a covenant of gratitude, and to stand faithfully to it.
1. The order of the covenant binds us; it is well-ordered in all things, and this is one part of the order of it; that duty follows upon privileges. The order of the covenant of works was indeed first doing, and then life and advantage by it; but the covenant of grace promises life and salvation, God in all his fullness to be ours; and then follow all the duties of gratitude.
2 We are bound to gratitude and duty by the God of the covenant; the first leading promise of it, is of God himself “I will be thy God,” therefore thou shalt be mine.
3. We are bound thus by the Mediator of the covenant; he is the Surety, the Prophet, Priest, and King of the Covenant; and it, stands fast in him, that we may stand fast to him.
4. We are bound by the Spirit of the covenant; he is promised in these words, “I will pour water upon the thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground; my Spirit upon thy seed, and my blessing upon thine offspring,” (Isa. 44:3). For what end? Why, then it is said, “They shall spring up as among the grass, and as willows by, the water courses. Then shall one say, I am the Lord’s, and another shall subscribe with his hand to the Lord, and surname himself by the name of Israel,” (v. 5).
5. We are bound by all the promises of the covenant; therefore it is said, “Having these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God,” (2 Cor. 7:1).
6. We are bound by, all the blessings of the covenant; light, life, liberty, strength, and comfort, are blessings thereof, to be bestowed for this very end, that we may be in case to glorify God by a solemn dedication of ourselves and our service to him. “Ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people, that ye should shew forth the praises of him that hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light,” (1 Pet. 2:9). Again,
7. The blood of the covenant is binding blood; it was sealed with the Word of the Lamb of God; it is justice-satisfying and sin-pardoning blood; and when this blood is sprinkled on the conscience, it is cementing blood for binding us to God, and to grateful acknowledgment of him.
8. The oath of the covenant is a binding oath; God swore to Christ and said: “Once have I sworn by my holiness, that I will not lie unto David; his seedshall endure for ever,” (Ps. 89:35-36). It is an oath to him relating unto us, and binding to swear allegiance of gratitude and grateful service to him that hath interposed his oath in our behalf.
9. The holiness of the covenant is a binding thing; God hath commanded his holy covenant, and one of the great ends and designs of it is, that his peculiar people might have this name written upon them, in letters legible to all the world, “Holiness to the Lord,” (see Jer. 32:4; Ezek. 16:18-20). Finally,
10. The perpetuity and immutability of the covenant of grace is a binding thing; it stands always steadfast and immoveable, and therefore obliges us to be steadfast and immoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, and in the duties of gratitude towards him, who is the Lord and changes not, and is faithful to his promise to us, and therefore we are bound to be faithful to our promise to him.
In a word, his grace binds us to gratitude, and his love should constrain us to his service.
V. The fifth thing proposed was, To make some application of the subject. Many inferences might be deduced from this doctrine.
1. We may see the danger of every legal method of covenanting with God, whereby people come under a covenant of duty, and solemn engagements to serve God, and resting upon their vow, promise, resolution, can covenant; while yet they were never acquainted with, nor laid hold upon God’s covenant grace. No wonder that their building fall to the ground, when it is not erected upon this sure foundation. It is possible some serious persons make a covenant with God, and think they do it with all their heart, and in the strength of promised grace; but then their dependence is more their covenant they made with God than upon the covenant made with Christ, more upon their promises to God than upon God’s promise to them through Christ; and so, upon every failure, they plunge themselves into a mire of discouragement, disorder, and confusion. Legal ways of covenanting have been the ruin of many souls; as the old covenant of works is a broken covenant, so all legal covenants, influenced by the old legal spirit, will be broken covenants; they are a bed too short for any to stretch himself upon, and a covering too narrow to wrap himself in. Again,
2. Hence we may see the kindness of God to these covenanted lands, in that, though they have broken and forgotten their covenants of duty to God, yet God hath not broken nor forgotten his covenant of grace towards them, but hath graciously reserved a remnant in the land to bear witness for God, that he is yet our covenanted God. No doubt, when this time, [one] hundred years, these lands came under a Solemn League and Covenant, and this land came under National Covenants also, avouching the Lord to be their God, many went about that work only in a legal way, and a formal, carnal way, depending upon their covenant and solemn engagement, and so came of it; it hath been broken and burnt, laughed at and ridiculed, and buried in the grave of oblivion; for which God is threatening a sword to avenge the quarrel of it However, we have reason to think that there was a number of honest covenanters, who, when they avouched the Lord to be their God, and promised obedience to him, did it in the faith of his avouching them to be his people, and in a wayof trusting to his covenant of grace and promise, and not to their own covenant and engagement; therefore, however we and our fathers have sinned, and forgotten our covenant of duty to God, yet God hath not forgotten his covenant of grace and mercy; and therefore hath this very day set up a number of living witnesses, openly to profess their remembrance of his covenant of grace, and openly to renew our covenant of duty. And though this our covenant, that we have through grace begun to renew, should prove also, in process of time, to be again a broken covenant, by us or our posterity, and we should forget that we have avouched him to be our God; yet, in so far as we are helped, we hope to go about this work in a dependence upon, and on the warrant of God’s covenant of premise to be forth-coming for us; we may therefore take it as a token for good, that whatever be the effects, God will remember his covenant of grace and mercy towards us and this land, and that he will not forget that he hath avouched us to be his covenanted people.
But leaving other inferences, I come to close with an address to two sorts of persons before me, namely, To those who have this day been avouching the Lord to be their God. 2. To all that have been witnesses.
1st, I would address myself, in a few words, to my dear and reverend brethren, including myself among them, however unfit I am for such a task; yet since you have put this exercise upon me, I presume to put you and myself in mind of three things, [During this Address to the Brethren, they all rose up and stood till it was over]. 1. Let us consider what we have been doing this day. 2. What God hath been doing this day. 3. What is incumbent upon us from this day while we live.
1. My dear brethren, What have we been doing? We have been avouching the Lord this day to be our God, and to keep his statutes, and his commandments, and to hearken to his voice.
We have professed this day, that we will have no more ado with idols; that we will have no other God but the living and true God; that this world, and the god of this world, and the lusts of the world, shall never be our gods; but only the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ; and upon this profession, we have taken instruments before God, men and angels, that this day we have done it.
We have professed that we have parted with our self-righteousness, and closed with Christ, as the Lord our righteousness, and esteem our own righteousness as dung; that we have taken hold of God’s covenant of grace, and of the mediator of it, as our only strength, our only Saviour and salvation; whereupon we have taken instruments that this day we have done it.
We have professed that we have gifted ourselves and our all to the Lord, and have taken the Lord Jehovah for our all, in tune and through eternity, and thereupon have taken instruments that thisday we have done it.
We have professed that we will walk with God in, a wayof duty towards God and man, that we will not live in the neglect of any known duty, nor in the commission of any known sin; but, through grace, keep ALL God’s statutes, commandments, and judgments, and hearken to the voice of God; that we will be faithful in our ministerial work, and walk exemplary before our people, as he goats before the flock; and hereupon we have taken instruments that this day we have done it.
We have professed that, we, according as it is given to us of grace, will suffer for the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, if we be called to it, and that we will be content, not only to be bound, reproached, persecuted, and imprisoned, but even to die for him; and when our name and honor, and Christ’s come in competition, we will be content that our honor be laid in the dust, that his honor may be advanced, and his name exalted; and hereupon we have taken instruments that this day, we have made this profession.
We have professed that we are willing to be instruments in his hands, to lift up the crown royal of our IMMANUEL, that hath been so long professed upon the ground, and instruments of reviving his long-buried work of reformation; and that, through his grace, we will appear more and more for him, and his oppressed cause, truth, and heritage, notwithstanding of whatever oppositions are laid in the way, and that we shall be in nothing terrified by our adversaries; and hereupon instruments are taken in heaven and earth, that this day we have done it.
But that we be no discouraged, and disheartened in such a great work, let us consider,
2. What God hath been doing this day, and that he is as solemnly engaged for us as we are for him, for “the Lord avouched us this day to be his peculiar people; as he hath promised us, and that we should keep all his commandments.” Our being led and determined to make such a confession and acknowledgement, and avouching of him this day, is a proof and evidence that he hath been here making a solemn confession, acknowledgement, and avouchment of us.
He hath confessed, professed, and acknowledged, that he is our God, which presupposed to his avouching us to be his people or servants; and this he hath done in the declaration of his name, “I am the Lord thy God,” and in the publication of his covenant, “I will be thy God;” whereupon, by his allowance, I hope we have taken instruments, that this day he hath done it.
He hath professed and acknowledged, that we are his peculiar servants, whom he hath called forth to serve him in very peculiar circumstances; and that therefore, for our peculiar work, he will give us peculiar aid; that he will not let us go a warfare at our own expense; but that his grace shall be sufficient for us; and hereupon we take instruments, that this day he has done it. Again,
In his avouching us to be his, according as he hath promised to us in his covenant of grace, he hath professed and acknowledged that he will be surety for us for good, and be forthcoming for all that we have engaged to in our covenant of duty and gratitude, knowing that without him we can do nothing. And that only by him strengthening us, we can do all things; therefore he hath promised that his strength shall be made perfect in our weakness; whereupon, by faith in his promise, we take instruments that this day he hath done it. Again,
He hath, by avouching of us, confessed and acknowledged that it is his will we should and his promise we should keep all his commandments; he hath not extended or enlarged the obligation of duty upon us, without extending and enlarging the encouragement and furniture for it; for, when he declares this is his will, saying, “This is the will of God, even of sanctification,” he says also, This is his work, “I am the Lord that sanctifieth you, and that worketh in you both to will and to do: I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes;” and hereupon, I hope, we are taking instruments in his own hand, which is the best hand, that this day he hath done it, by avouching us to be his. Again,
By avouching us to be his, as he hath promised to us in his covenant of grace, he hath confessed and acknowledged, that he will make all his promises good, according to all our necessities. If, in his providence, he says, “Behold, I send you forth as sheep among wolves;” in his promise he says, “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am thy God.” If his call to us is, “Go and teach all nations,” his promise is also, “Lo I am with you always, to the end of the world;” and hereupon we take instruments, that this day he hath done it.
In a word, God hath come under a bond and engagement to us this day, and his bond is, in another sort, more firm than ours; his is the bond of an everlasting covenant, but ours is a mutable covenant, lasting no farther than as it hath a relation to his covenant of promise, and is maintained by it. We may break our covenant with him, but he cannot break his covenant with us. He hath infinitely more to lose than we, if he should break his word; for his honor is engaged, his name and glory is at the stake; and what will he not do for his great name? Therefore, if we have taken instruments upon his covenanted engagement and avouchment this day, he will never allow us to withdraw our instruments, but allow us to plead it at his heavenly court, his throne of grace, from this day and forward. Therefore I would, in a word, show,
3. What is incumbent upon us from this day and forward. I sum up all in one advice. If we would be faithful to our solemn engagement this day, let us live by the faith of God’s solemn engagement this day; for his engagement to us in a covenant of grace, is the ground of our engagement to him in a covenant of gratitude; therefore, let us never depend upon our own solemn engagement this day, but upon God’s solemn engagement to us this day, in his covenant of promise.
From this day let us depend upon his covenanted Spirit, his promised Spirit; for, by the power of his Spirit, the work is begun and must be carried on: “This is the word of the Lord unto Zerubbabel, Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord of hosts,”(Zech. 4:6). Let us rest on his word, that said, “I will send the Comforter,” (John 16:7).
From this day let us depend upon his covenanted counsel and conduct; for he hath said, “I will lead the blind in ways they knew not, and in paths which they have not known,” (Isa. 42:16). Let us trust in him, that he will guide us by his counsel, and afterwards receive us to glory. We have many proofs of his making darkness light before us, and crooked things straight; let us therefore still hope in his word.
From this day let us depend upon his covenanting presence; that when we go through fire or water he will be with us, (Isa. 43:2), and bring us through fire and water to a wealthy land. Let us bless him that hath said, “‘I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee,” (Heb. 13:5). Many will be against us, but if God be with us, and for us, no matter who can be against us, (Rom. 8:31).
From this day let us depend upon his covenanted blessing; for he hath said, “From this day will I bless you,” (Hag. 2:19). From what day was it? Why, in the first chapter, God complained of that generation) that they still put off temple-building work, saying, “The time is not come to build the Lord’s house;” just like this generation, that have been saying more than fifty years, It is not time to renew our Solemn Covenants, or revive a Reformation-work; but God stirred up a remnant in the days of Haggai, who laid the foundation of the house of the Lord. And now, says the prophet, Consider, from this day; and again, Consider, from this day, (vv. 15, 18, 19), and a third time, Consider, from this day, even “From this day will I bless yea:” from this day men may curse you; but “From this day will I bless you.” Let this encourage us to faithfulness against all discouragements from without. We may depend upon his promised blessing in life and death: “His blessing maketh rich;” and hath more unsearchable riches comprehended in it, than men or angels can tell. It may encourage us to follow him, whithersoever he goeth; and to be faithful to our engagement; for inthis way his blessing will follow us, through death and the grave, to the glorious appearance of our Master in the clouds of heaven: “For, when the chief Shepherd shall appear, we shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away,” (1 Pet. 5:4). In this faith let us stand fast, depending upon him that hath said, “From this day will bless you.”
So far, I hope, my dear brethren will allow this address to them.
3dly, I would address myself in a short word, to all that have been witnesses to the solemnity of this day: some of you are friends to this work, and some of you are enemies.
(1.) To you that are friends, I have two words to offer, if yoube indeed the friends of Christ and his cause; friends to a covenant work of Reformation.
1. From what you have seen and heard this day, you may take witnesses and take instruments, that God is yet the covenanted God of Scotland; though a covenanted people have departed from him, yet our covenanted God hath not quite, departed from us. We forgot our covenant of duty, but God hath not forgotten his covenant of mercy; and therefore hath mercifully revived his work in the midst of the years. Before the year 1643 was at an end, God brought these lands under a solemn League and Covenant, besides our National Covenants at other times; but these have been broken, burnt, and buried, and trampled upon; yet now, before the year 1743, is at an ends God hath begun to set up a memorial of that reformation work that was carried on by a solemn covenanting, from time to time: and therefore take instruments, from this day and date, that he hath not left himself without a witness, and that he will yet return and leave a blessing behind him, and repair all the breaches that have been made upon the carved work of his house, the doctrine, worship, discipline, and government thereof; and that he will yet be as the dew unto Israel: and make us revive as the corn, and grow as the lily, and cast forth our root as Lebanon.
2. From what you have seen and heard this day, and at this time, you may learn, that, when God’s call to this covenanting work shall come to your door, you need not be afraid to avouch him solemnly to be your God; for, he will not be behind you, but will avouch you as solemnly to be his people. If you take hold of his covenant of grace, you need not fear to enter into a covenant of gratitude and duty; for the grace of his covenant will carry you through all the duties of your covenant: he will not be a day behind you; for the day that you avouch him, that day will he avouch you; yea, his avouching of you goes foremost, for he hath prefaced his commands with it, “I am the Lord thy God.” But when he calls us to such solemn work, he delays his open avouching of us, till owe we have openly avouched him. Think, it not enough, that your hearts have joined in this work with us this day; for though it is well, if your hearts have closed with God’s covenant of grace and you have devoted yourselves to him in a covenant of gratitude, if it be only between God and you, this may be your safety: but is there not something farther incumbent on you, for reaching the end of God’s declarative glory, when that hath been so much darkened in this day? It must come to an open avouching of God, if we would glorify him before the world, or confess him before men; in the hope of being confessed by him in the great day. When God appears in his glory, and builds up Zion, and hears the prayer of the destitute, and looses his prisoners; what end does God propose by all of this? See it, (Ps. 102:21). It is,
That they in Zion may declare,
The Lord’s most holy name;
And publish in Jerusalem
The praises of the same.
Therefore, let us pray for the accomplishment of that word, “Then will I turn to the people a pure language, that they may all call upon the name of the Lord, and serve him with one consent,” (Zeph. 3:9). But,
(2.) I would. Next address myself to you who are enemies, and have no good will to such work as this, of avouching the Lord to be your God. I have a word to say to you; and it is in short a very awful one. You hate to come under engagements to serve the Lord; and, sure I am, you are not serving such a good master as he is. You are serving the God of this world, and rejecting our God and master. Our Master and Saviour, but your master is a destroyer; ours is a Redeemer, but yours is a murderer; your carnal mind, is enmity against God, and against the work of God, and the city of God; but know, that “Clod will make Jerusalem a burdensome stone for all people; all that burden themselves with it shall be cut in pieces, though all the people of the earth be gathered against it,” (Zech. 12:3). You that hate to be engaged for God and his cause, what if I must tell you that God is engaged against you? He is engaged by promise to Christ, “That he will beat down his foes before his face, and plague them that hate him,” (Ps. 89:23). Yea, I must tell you, that since this is a solemn instrumenting day, we must take instruments against you, if you remain slighter, and rejecters of our Lord Jesus Christ, and refuse to pay allegiance to Zion’s, King. We hereupon take instruments against you, that this day we have been avouching him to be our God, and promising, through his grace, to serve him; and this day you have been rejecting him, and are resolving to continue in the service of the devil, the world, and your lusts. Alas! How dreadful is your case, if God be taking instruments against you, saying, “This day you have rejected ME, and this day I have rejected you; your souls abhor ME, and my soul abhors you! If this be his farewell word to you, then I will tell you what will be the last word that ever you will hear him say, even, “Depart from me, ye cursed, to everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels!” In that great day, you must answer for what you have seen and heard this day, by the recognition of conscience. Then this day will be a witness against you on that day: andwe who are professing to be witnesses for God, must be witnesses against you, that we avouched him, and you avoided, and turned your back upon him.
But since it is not yet come to the last day with you; nor is God come yet to his last word, so long as the day of grace lasts; therefore hearken you this day to his word of grace; for, “Now is the accepted time, now is the day of salvation.” We make, in our Master’s name, an offer of him to you; yea, he makes an offer of himself; saying, “Whosoever will, let him come.” O sirs, “Will you go with this Man, who is IMMANUEL, God with us, and God for us?” We have avouched him this day to be our God, and you have as good right and warrant to avouch him to be yours, as ever you had; and though you should not do it with the outward solemnity of your hands lifted up to him, at this time, yet we call you, in his great name, to do it with the inward solemnity of your hearts lifted up to him; for he hath come down to you in a declaration of his new-covenant name, as well as to us, saying, “I am the Lord thy God.” He speaks to you not only authoritatively, saying, “I am the Lord,” but most affectionately, as a Saviour, “I am THY God.”
Well, sirs, will you not this day avouch him, and avow and acknowledge him to be the Lord your God and Redeemer? Does he claim relation to you, and will you claim none to him? This is the day that the Lord hath made for giving you this offer, and every day is not an avouching day, every day is not a covenanting day. O sirs, you never saw such a day, and perhaps never will! Let not this day be lost; let not the evening of this day be lost; but when God is yet saying, Come, come to me, “I am the Lord thy God.” O take him at his word, saying, “Behold we come unto thee, for thou art the Lord our God.”
May the Spirit of power accompany the call, and make it effectual, that instruments may be taken upon it in your behalf, as ours, That this day we have avouched the Lord to be our God, and this day he hath avouched us to be his peculiar people, formed for himself, to show forth his praise.